Webbing Clothes Moth

About 5,000 species of moths live in Canada. They belong to the same insect order – Lepidoptera -- as butterflies. Moths, however, have threadlike or feathery antennae (compared to the smooth antennae of butterflies) and they are nocturnal, or active at night.

Moths range in size from tiny (3 mm) to huge (12 cm). They have four distinct life stages: egg, larva, pupa (the cocoon stage) and adult. Moth larva are voracious eaters. Depending on the species, they feed on plant leaves, grains or natural fibers. Adult moths drink nectar from flowers. 

Moths normally live outdoors, except for a few species that are indoor pests.


Types of Moths in the House

Two types of moths may infest a home or business: pantry moths and clothes moths. These moths are not dangerous but can cause significant damage.


What are pantry moths?

Pantry moths are stored product pests, which means they eat and contaminate food often stored in the cupboard. The most common pantry moth in Canada is the Indian meal moth. This moth has a wingspan of about 5/8 inches (16 mm). About half of its wings are copper- to bronze in colour.

Signs of pantry moths are little brown moths flying in the kitchen, dead months, and wiggling moth larvae (tiny caterpillars) in infested food products.

 Caterpillar of Indianmeal moth infesting grain


Why do I have pantry months in my house?

Pantry moths get in the house when you bring infested foods and food packaging indoors. These items were infested at the granary, food plant or grocery store. The moths also may have come in from outdoors.

Many pantry moth problems can be traced to infested bird seed and dry pet food. Pantry moths also are attracted to course grades of flour, such as whole wheat, cornmeal and graham flour. They like grains, dried fruit, dried beans, cereal, crackers, powdered milk, chocolate, and nuts.

Indian meal moths lay eggs directly in food and on food packaging. The larvae that hatch from the eggs are small enough to wiggle though the seams of food wrapping. The larvae eat the food, then travel somewhere nearby to make cocoons (pupae), emerging as adult moths to start the process again.

Sometimes, an infestation of pantry moths can be traced to a squirrel or chipmunk problem in the house. Caches of nuts stored in chimneys and wall voids by these critters can lead to an Indian meal moth infestation.

Do pantry moths eat clothes? No, pantry months don’t eat clothes. Clothes moths, however, do eat clothing made from natural animal fibers.


What are clothes moths?

Clothes moths are fabric pests. They eat items made of natural animal materials, such as wool, leather, cashmere, silk, feathers and fur. The two most common clothes moths in Canada are the webbing clothes moth and the casemaking clothes moth.

The webbing clothes moth is shiny and golden in colour and has a fluffy pompadour of reddish golden hairs on its head. It is 6 to 8 mm long. The casemaking clothes moth is slightly smaller. It is buff to golden in colour and it has three dark spots on each wing.

Signs of clothes moths are holes in fabric and shorn and missing fur and feathers. Near damaged areas, you may see tiny caterpillars (moth larvae), a sand-like substance (the excrement of clothes moth larvae), and silken feeding tunnels (webbing clothes moth) or tubular cases (casemaking clothes moth).

Clothes moths lay eggs on or near their preferred food source. The larvae hatch from eggs hungry. Clothes moth larvae eat wool clothes, hats, blankets, carpets, stuffed animals, upholstered furniture, piano felt, wall hangings and old rugs remnants in attics. They eat fur jackets, taxidermy animals, and items made with fur or feathers, including artwork. The larvae then make cocoons (pupae) and eventually emerge as adult moths.


Why do I have clothes moths in my house?

Clothes moths can find their way into the house through cracks, crevices and open doors and windows. But most likely, they were brought into the house by accident. Clothes moth eggs or lavae can come in on second-hand clothing, bedding and home furnishings purchased at garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores.

Clothes moths prefer dark spaces like closets. Cluttered closets can make a clothes moth infestation harder to notice and resolve. Clothes moths are attracted to clothes made from natural animal fibers or a blend of synthetic and natural fibers. They prefer clothing that is soiled with food stains and perspiration and often are found near cuffs and collars.

Clothes moths are a problem year-round, but most active in spring.


How to Get Rid of Moths in the House

To get rid of moths in your house or business, follow these 4 steps:


  1. Identify the moth – Determine the type of moth in your home of business so you can take specific actions to get rid of them.


  1. Inspect for moth activity – Once you know the type of moth, you’ll know where to find adult moths and larvae. This may be where you store food and pet food products or in the clothes closet. Moth activity may not be limited to one clothing item or food package, so thoroughly inspect the entire area.


  1. Use mechanical controls and exclusion – Depending the type of moth, take these actions:


Pantry moths – To get rid of pantry moths and to prevent pantry moths

  • Dispose of infested food products
  • Store food, pet food and bird seed in tight-sealing containers
  • Promptly clean up spilled food items
  • Regularly clean out pantry, cupboards and food storage areas with soap and hot water
  • Store foods that are susceptible to pantry moths in the freezer, if possible


Clothes moths – To get rid of clothes moths and to prevent clothes moths

  • Always launder or dry clean clothes before storing them for the season
  • Store clothes and items made with wool, fur, feathers and leather in tightly sealed bins or hanging zippered organizers.
  • Declutter closets
  • Thoroughly and regularly vacuum wool furnishings and rugs, including under sofas and near furniture legs, which often gets missed
  • Steam clean upholstered furniture
  • Dispose of infested items or, if practical, put them in the freezer for a week. Exposure to long-term cold should kill moth eggs and larvae.


  1. Use the best pest control traps for moths – In addition to using  mechanical controls, the fastest way to get rid of pantry moths and clothes moths is to use bug traps. These include flying insect traps and moth pheromone traps. Pheromone traps for moths contain a lure or attractant that draws in male moths. The male moths think they are meeting up with female moths to breed (wrong!) and this stops the breeding cycle.

Clothes moth traps and pantry moth traps are highly effective. However, any eggs already laid will still hatch into larvae that contaminate your food or destroy your clothing. As such, be sure to complete the recommended steps for mechanical control and exclusion.


Also read: 

How to get rid of small flies

Understanding Moth Pheromone Traps

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